The Workmen’s Circle or Arbeiter Ring, as it’s called in Yiddish, promotes Jewish culture, social justice, education and the Yiddish language through annual lectures, concerts and member meetings.
The organization was founded in the United states by European immigrants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, who were fleeing persecution and economic hardships. They formed an organization in New York in 1900 which offered mutual aid and community, including Yiddish language and Jewish traditions to subsequent immigrants. Other branches were founded in other American cities and networked together.
Similar hardships existed in Canada and in 1907 and 1908 initial WC/AR branches were established in Montreal and Toronto. By 1917, the International Workmen’s Circle was able to offer fraternal benefits, including medical and insurance benefits, to its members beyond the State of New York. The Toronto Workmen’s Circle, then comprised of more than a single branch, incorporated as a not-for-profit called the Arbeiter Ring, in 1917, and subsequently also joined this union.
On November 15, 2009 we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the organization in Toronto with an exciting weekend of events and a reunion. Former alumni, students and campers from Europe and North American joined these celebrations.
2017 marked the 100th anniversary of this incorporation and 2018 marked the 60th anniversary of the opening of our former centre at 471 Lawrence Ave W. in Toronto. On Sunday, May 5, 2019, we once again celebrated these dual milestones with a celebration and a reunion of past and current members, Camp Yungvelt campers, Peretz School students and former WC Colony residents.
On January 29, 2020, we closed the sale of our centre on 471 Lawrence Ave West and now occupy spacious rental accommodations at 309-3089 Bathurst Street. We look forward to promoting Yiddish language and Jewish culture for decades to come.
Recently the Toronto Workmen’s Circle has established a charitable arm – the Toronto Workmen’s Circle Foundation – whose mission is to advance the public’s knowledge and appreciation of Yiddish language and Jewish arts, culture and history either by organizing public performances and cultural events, or by funding like-minded organizations to carry out program within the scope of the foundation’s mission.
To this end, the foundation has sponsored major showings at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, a Holocaust-themed stage play at Toronto’s Ashkenaz Festival, and a commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising produced by the Workmen’s Circle, gifted Yiddish scholarship funds and other undertakings.